Joe Root backed England to become the best team in the world after a heavy defeat by Australia failed to dim the glow of Ashes success this summer.
The tourists gave captain Michael Clarke a winning send-off by completing victory by an innings and 46 runs at The Kia Oval – but his tour ended in disappointment as England won the Investec Series 3-2.
Root was named man of the series for his classy batting throughout the summer, in which he made 460 runs including centuries in the First Test at Cardiff and the Fourth at Trent Bridge.
“We have a very good chance of becoming one of the best sides in the world, if not the best, if we continue on our current trend,” said Root. “We are making small mistakes that are costing us dearly, but we are improving very quickly and we’re hard to beat at our best.
“If you look over the last 18 months, there has been a massive change of faces in this team. But guys have stood up and the people who have been given a chance have been outstanding. From the First Test of the summer, when we beat New Zealand at Lord’s, the development has been fantastic.”
While Clarke, who has now retired from all cricket, admitted England deserved their victory, he hinted that unfair pressure had been applied to the groundsmen to prepare wickets that would favour the home team.
After Australia levelled the series with a 405-run win on a flat pitch in the Second Test at Lord’s, England captain Alastair Cook said his team wanted to play on “English wickets”.
In exactly the conditions Cook had craved, England won the next two Tests at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge and the Ashes were regained. Clarke stopped short of accusing the ECB of ordering certain pitches, but his unease was clear.
“I don’t know what influence the ECB had,” said Clarke. “I’ve got a feeling from a lot of the conversations I’ve had with the groundsmen in this country that they’re a bit disappointed they haven’t been able to do as they’ve wanted to do.
“I’d like to see groundsmen have the courage to go with what they think is a good cricket wicket – around the world, not just here. We saw a lot of talk about the first two Tests at Cardiff and Lord’s, how flat the wickets were, but those matches lasted four days.
“The next three finished more quickly than that. People had tickets to watch a whole day’s play on days four and five at Edgbaston and Nottingham, so the fans of the game deserve to see a really good contest for five days.
“If I go to the groundsman in Brisbane and ask for a turning wicket like Sydney, he will laugh at me. It might be different around the world.”
Not surprisingly, Cook gave Clarke’s comments short shrift. He said: “The wickets are the same for both side, in three out of the five Test matches we played better than Australia. That's why we've won the Ashes.”
Cook conceded that England had underestimated the emotional effect of winning the Ashes at Trent Bridge, and had not been able to produce their best cricket here.
But he predicted an international future for Ian Bell, who hinted shortly after the end of the game that he was considering retirement. Cook added: “What you say in an interview now might not be what you really believe deep down. Ian Bell is a class player, a wonderful player, and he has a big part to play. I hope he is around for a few more years.”Reuse content